Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Atlanta Gospel: The Barnetts on Brother Love

mid-week gospel

... yesterday I was close to losing my temper (which then in a wise move of self appeasement and by remembering Biblical injunctions I was able to avoid), but indeed the advantages of keeping my composure became evident today when yesterday's problems no longer mattered. I am good at ignoring problems anyhow. This is nothing to be proud of because sometimes the problems bounce back at you and matters will actually be much worse than before. Sometimes, however, they just disappear. This is the lucky turn of events.

Today, I am even luckier with what I have to offer musically wise, that is, I've got this 45 with two formidable performances and at first hadn't much information about the artists. The label is called Brother Love Records, and my copy has no additional info whatsoever. What I do know, though, is that Brother Love was an Atlanta-based label and that The Female Nightingales released one 45 on that label (see the Georgia Soul website). At least one Brother Love 45 also features non-sacred music, namely Bobby Strickland's »After All I'm Still In Love With You / The Girl That I Love« (an unnumbered 45). This record is mentioned as completely obscure over at Sir Shambling's Deep Soul Heaven, but an update on that page, based on the expertise of Georgia Soul buff Brian Poust, reveals that this was the only non-sacred issue on this label, the others being gospel music. Says Poust, »the same Brother Love label released gospel records here in Atlanta. This [viz. Bobby Strickland's] is the only secular record I know of on the label, and all of the gospel 45s have a blue label, but the exact typeface/design. The three copies of the 45 I've ever had were all found here in Atlanta« (quoted from here). Release dates are uncertain, and a good guess is late 1970s or early 1980s. -- For completeness sake, there is at least one other label called »Brother Love Records«, out of Philadelphia, and then we have one 45 issued by »Brother Love Production«, of Akron Ohio (details here); both have nothing to do with Atlanta's Brother Love Records.

The Brother Love 45 I happen to possess (# MA 1065) features a duet of Reverend J.T. Barnett and Sister Barnett on the A side, and Sister Barnett solo on the B side, accompanied by the Central Holiness Choir. Now, from the label prints of their 45 we do not get many clues, but the best giveaway is the choir's name. It appears that this choir belonged to the Central Holiness Church of Deliverance in 1069 Washing- ton Street, Atlanta, the founder and pastor of which was and still is Bishop J.T. Barnett. What I am not sure about is who Sister Barnett is. A fair guess that she's the same person as Evangelist Blondine Barnett, first lady at the church mentioned. To my knowledge, there are no other records by Rev. and Sister Barnett.

The two sides of this 45 are very different, which is nice. The A side is a soulful version of »You Can Go On« with a forceful piano setting the beat and Rev. & Sister Barnett engaging in sort of an answer-reply tune; the male voice has the lead. The B side, on the other hand, is an ecstatic hymn in the Holiness tradition and quite a church wrecker. Mind, you all, that the A side has one - little but unfortunately noticeable - skip right in the middle... it can't be helped but shouldn't distract I hope.

Rev. J.T. Barnett & Sister Barnett: »You Can Go On« /
Sister Barnett & Central Holiness Choir: »Home Up In Glory« on Brother Love # 1065:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nothing, Nothing at All ...

... after hours trying to get proper access to divshare, I've had it now! Things are not going well at divshare, it seems, because for several days divshare links were loading only very slowly, and now the site is practically down. Let's see what happens next ... have a nice evening all!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

B. L. Night ... Cont'd

... she had a #01 r&b hit, something which, to name but a few, Tina Turner (with and without Ike), Carla Thomas, Laura Lee or Maxine Brown didn't manage.
    She's one of the few r&b female singers to play an instrument, and she wrote many of her songs.
    She was 70 last January, and she's still active.
    Her first LP, from October 1962, is a landmark album of the 60's.
    No need even to name her, because you know whom I am speaking about.

    Here are several nice photographs of her, some of which are only rarely seen on the net:

And she recorded some, well, quirky songs, so let's not forget about those ...

Barbara Lynn: »Dina And Petrina« / »Second Fiddle Girl« from the Jamie LP # 3023 (1962):

Friday, March 22, 2013

B.L. Night

Today, I was greeted with the cover of Barbara Lynn's fabulous Jamie LP over at BB's Blues All Kinds who is playing »I'm Sorry I Met You« -- I only hope that that doesn't reflect any recent personal experience of his!!? But such unhappy thoughts apart ... this really made my day! So I thought nothing better for today than make it a Barbara Lynn night. And you know what? The stereo version he's playing really has the horn section featuring prominently whereas in my mono version of the Jamie LP (which is happily residing in a LP sleeve adorned with the word STEREO written in multi-colored capital letters ...!) the horn section is more or less buried in the recording. The contrast is really elucidating, so I'll play my LP version below and you can compare it with the stereo version over at Blues All Kinds. For good measure, I added a dash of groove with Barbara Lynn's version of Jimmy Reed's »You Don't Have To Go«. My copy of the LP is not exactly in mint condition, but it still plays well ... and maybe you've noticed that Divshare wasn't working properly lately, the songs loading very slowly and kind of stuttering ... let's hope they fix it soon. Listen here:

Barbara Lynn: »I'm Sorry I Met You« / »You Don't Have To Go« from the Jamie LP # JLP-3023 (1962):

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jubilee, Jubilee!

This is nothing less than...
he 200th post on this blog!

With some bad and a lot of good times, this blog has made it into its 26th month and reached its 200th post. I had many glorious ideas, all discarded eventually, what I would write tonight. In the end, I settled for an unashamed display of self-complacency. Thus I went through the pages of this blog and concocted sort of a chart list of the best stuff I put online. Needless to say that these mini-charts are exclusively based on my own peculiar likings, but that's what blogs are all about. This is what I came up with, three in each category ... and phew, choices were hard:

B E S T   V O C A L   P E R F O R M A N C E S

 *** Della Reese (with the Meditation Singers)

 ***Rheta Hughes

***Mildred Lane (with the Patterson Singers)
»He Won't Fail You« (1968)

S O N G S   I   S I M P L Y   L I K E   M O S T

***Esther Phillips

***Fontella Bass

***Etta James

 G R O O V I E S T   S O N G S

***Fontella Bass & Bobby McClure

***Shirley Ellis

***Mavis Staples
»Good To Me« (1969)

F A V O R I T E   S A C R E D   T U N E S

***Holmes Sisters

***The Meditation Singers
»The Lord Is« (1967)

***Gladys McFadden & The Loving Sisters' Sons

Thanks to all those who contributed to this blog by writing comments or getting in contact with me!

I wish you all the best. Keep tuned in to this blog.

... to conclude, the following song comes just for the fun of it, and what fun it is! The incomparable Sugar Pie DeSanto, usually appearing barefeet on stage and famously leaving her high heel sneakers in the locker ('cause they hurt her toesies so bad). This tune was first presented in Billboard on a 21st of March which is a nice coincidence ... from 1964 and just as fresh and peachy as when it was recorded.

Sugar Pie DeSanto: »Slip-In Mules (No High Heel Sneakers)« on Checker # 1073A (1964):

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Toiling On

... while we were on it, some days ago, let's have today some more of the East St. Louis Gospelettes!
     First, by way of catharsis, there is a vocal tour de force by Frances Moore with the well- known song »Keep Toiling On«. That song, or rather Frances's performance, knocks me flat. And the song's got one of the grooviest church organs I've ever heard.
     Second, by way of regeneration, you may relieve your tensity by swinging along to »If I Had My Way« ... you have to wait for the latter half of the song until it really takes off but the whole package is worth listening.
Happy Sunday all!

The East St. Louis Gospelettes (feat. Frances Moore):
»Keep Toiling On« / »If I Had My Way« from the Nashboro LP # 7220 (1980):

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

East St. Louis Funk Gospel

mid-week gospel

I am still about to write a series of documented posts about the »pop gospel« discus- sion. Well, I wanted to accompany the introductory post with a funky piece by the East St Louis Gospelettes, featuring the great and incomparable voice of Frances Moore (looking for a comparison, Mavis Staples might come to mind). Thing is, I am far from finished, especially when I started to research East St. Louis as kind of a side interest.

You have probably heard about the 1917 East St Louis race riot, culminating in a massacre in July. At least 49 persons were killed, the great majority of them black, and this sadly makes East St Louis hold, according to an essay in LIFE (August 27, 1965, p. 4), »the modern carnage record«. You probably know that Miles Davis is the town's most famous son, and that Josephine Baker and Chuck Berry grew up in East St. Louis (if Josephine Baker was, in 1906, born in East St. Louis or over the river in Missouri seems to be an unsettled question). You are possibly aware that actress LaWanda Page started her career in East St. Louis and that renowned dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham chose to establish her Centers for Arts and Humanities there. You might know that Ike and Tina Turner met for the first in the Manhattan Club in East St. Louis back in the '50s.

But have you ever heard about the novel Ofay by Earl Shorris, published in 1966?
»... a young white man's search for a personal freedom which he hopes to attain in the different world of black people. Josh, a young reporter leaves Chicago, his job, and his safe suburban background to delve into the Negro life of East St. Louis. In the ghetto, with its dim bars, back rooms, junk, jazz and hustlers, he is warily and superficially accepted for he soon learns that it isn't easy to play black, nor is the situation eased when he falls in love with a Negro girl« – so ran the review of the book in EBONY, June 1966. And did you know that Harry Edwards, Founder of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) and professor of sociology at the Uni- versity of California, Berkeley, was born and raised in East St. Louis? He had, in 1968, urged black athletes to boycott the games, and the athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos were, when they raised their famous black fist salute, inspired by Edwards's stance on the issue and wore the badges of the OPHR. In 1980, Edwards published his autobiography entitled The Struggle That Must Be, a good part of which is set in East St. Louis. And are you aware that East St. Louis has, since 1976, its own Poet Laureate in the person of Eugene B. Redmond? Did you finally come across Jennifer F. Hamer's in-depth-study Abandoned in the Heartland: Work, Family, and Living in East St. Louis, published just two years ago in 2011 by the Univ. of California Press? If this was nothing new to you, you will find a lot more at the impressively elaborate website of the Southern Illinois University Illinoistown: A Cultural History of East St. Louis in the Twentieth Century.

Of course, to get closer to today's protago- nists, there were the East St. Louis Gospel- ettes (organized back in 1965 for the first time). They recorded for various labels in the 1970s and have become largely famous for their lead singer Frances Moore and their often funky songs on the borderline between modern gospel and protest & social commentary songs (much like the Loving Sisters who were active in the same period). Sometime in the first months of 1977, the Los Angeles-based label Birthright released their single BR-45-601, the A side of which is Stevie Wonder's »Have A Talk With God«. (There is no direct info avalaible as to when the single was released but it cannot have been prior to October '76 – Stevie Wonder's own version of the song was out only towards the end of September –, yet it probably predates the release of the Gospelettes' LP Love Is The Key out in May 1977 since it contains the song, too.)  However, the Gospelettes' versions is way funkier than Stevie Wonder's more polished version, and Frances Moore's voice seems to fit the song better than Stevie's rather high-ranging voice. Really, the tune is mainly a solo performance by Frances Moore, the chorus having almost no part in it – on the contrary, what we hear in the second part of the song seems to be an all-male chorus? (the East St. Louis Gospelettes actually featured two male members anyway ...). Whatever, it goes well along with the groovy tune ...

The East St. Louis Gospelettes feat. Frances Moore: »Have A Talk With God« on Birthright # 601A (1977):

Monday, March 11, 2013

One of my favorite songs

... tonight, I updated some older posts (one of them substantially) because I came across new material that couldn't be ignored. So there is no time left to write anything new ... to make the best of it, I simply post one of those songs which, many years ago, opened my way into the soul universe. It has remained one of my favorite songs and I still consider it one of the greatest tunes ever recorded. And as with many of O.V. Wright's songs, it has memorable lyrics ... just think of »if I get lonely, I can spin the nickel – th'nail won't spin« ... has there ever been said some- thing remotely comparable to express utter destitution? ... from 1971

O.V. Wright: »A Nickel And A Nail« on Back Beat #622A (1971):

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Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Greatest Delineator of Rhythm Singing

... sounds weird? No, I didn't think it up! Instead, you'll find it on the back cover of Jackie Wilson's Brunswick LP # BL 54110 released in April 1963. This LP was entitled after his recent hit, »Baby Workout« (02/1964). Now let's just for a moment imagine that Jackie Wilson browsed the Billboard issue which was issued exactly  t o d a y  
5 0   y e a r s   a g o
. He would have found his latest single »Baby Workout« for the first time entering the pop Hot 100 charts on # 81.

ad in BB March 09, 1963, p. 17
It took another two weeks until »Baby Workout« also entered the R&B singles charts, immediately rocketing to # 14. As you will probably know, »Baby Workout« was to become Jackie's fourth #1 r&b hit, and it eventually made it to #05 pop, becoming one of the biggest successes of his entire career.

In the charts of the time, Jackie's »Baby Workout« competed with »Our Day Will Come« (Ruby & the Romantics), »Puff (The Magic Dragon)« (PP&M) and the Orlons' »South Street«, not to mention the girl groups dominating the upper charts regions, e.g. the Chiffons with »He's So Fine« and the Cookies with »Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby«. In April, »On Broadway« (Drifters) and »Surfin' U.S.A.« were coming up strong against Jackie's hit tune.

However, »Baby Workout« was released at a time when Jackie Wilson wasn't passing the best of times. Well, there was still some of the glamorous life left for Jackie, for example at a dinner in honor of the president of Brunswick Records in the New York Key club when he was approached by »cute Playboy Club bunny« Marion Barker for an autograph (from JET, Dec. 20, 1962, p. 33):
But there were problems as well, because a year ago Jackie had been shot in his abdomen by a woman. The bullet had never been removed, but towards the end of 1962 the bullet started to move in his body and Jackie had to cancel several enga- gements. In January 1963, he even entered a hospital in order to prepare for an operation to have the bullet removed. In the end, there was no operation because the bullet's wanderings were judged less dangerous than risking an operation. The medics concluded that Jackie was overworked and a »victim of nervous exhau- stion«, so they sent him home, bullet and all. »Singer Jackie Wilson checks X-ray which indicated that he is not in need of an operation, because of a bullet moving about in his abdomen ...« (from JET, January 24, 1963, p.32):
In January '63, Jackie also escaped a paternity-case warrant by the Detroit police by sending a buddy of his to turn himself in and claiming to be Jackie Wilson while Jackie himself left the town and disappeared (JET Jan. 24, 1963, p. 43). Living on with the bullet (and an open paternity case), Jackie did not heed the medics' advice to relax but rather went back to the stage and in mid-February performed at Pittsburgh's Syria Mosque. In March, he then witnessed the rise of his latest single release »Baby Workout« (the first reports, on March 2, indicated »strong airplay« of his song in the New York area), and later that month he made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.

At the beginning of April, Brunswick rushed an album out which was meant (as so often) to cash in on the recent success of »Baby Workout«.
The 12 songs on the LP, including of course »Baby Workout«, are claimed on the back cover to be »patterned after Jackie's smash hit single« in order to »lend further proof that Jackie Wilson is probably the greatest delineator of rhythm singing of his day« (oh, how I love that term!). As a dance compilation, the LP is no bad at all as there are mostly uptempo songs, but we have little overall variety and indeed the album seems very much constructed around Jackie's latest hit. It may be considered a pity, though, that Jackie's artistic talent and magnetic voice was - hmm, let's say: - squandered for rather mainstreamy stomp-your-feet-and-clap-your-hands tunes which recall, in their banality, many of the ditties Elvis was pumping out on his movie soundtracks during the mid-1960s. However, there are no outright turkeys on Jackie's LP, and the instrumentation and the arrangements are way better than what we find, to continue the comparison, on Elvis's movie albums. I for my part espe- cially love »The Kickapoo«, in itself little else but the umpteenth novelty dance tune, for its »overture« that has Jackie's voice shine forth so characteristically. And then there is »Baby Workout« which first charted today 50 years ago.

Jackie Wilson: »Baby Workout« / »The Kickapoo« from the Brunswick LP # 54110 (1963, mono):

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Friday, March 08, 2013

»You Left The Water Running« Revisited

I was prompted to jot down this post by the wonderful version of »You Left The Water Running« by Maurice & Mac on Checker # 1197, recently featured over on It's All In The Grooves blogspot. Famously, this is a Penn-Hall song (official credits: Dan Penn, Rick Hall, Oscar Franck), recorded by numerous artists. However, and not- withstanding the notoriety of the song, some of the more obscure '60s versions are normally disregarded, and the chronological sequence of the respective recordings often appears uncertain. This is what I could arrive at so far (in chronological order):

     (1) Recorded by Billy Young, released on Chess # 1961, out in May 1966. The recording must therefore have taken place during the first months of '66, making this the first known recorded version. Billy Young from Macon, Ga., was a protégé of Otis Redding who took him to Muscle Shoals for a session at Fame Studios recording for his Jotis label. Billy was then invited to Chess Records to record a single for them in 1966, »Have Pity On Me / You Left the Water Running«; read more details here.

     (2) Recorded by Barbara Lynn at a uncertain date in summer '66, released on Tribe # 8319 and out in September 1966 (reported # 110 Bubbling under the Hot 100 in BB October 22, 1966, p. 24 and first charting in the Top Selling R&B singles # 49, same issue p. 34); read more details and listen to the song here.

     (3) Recorded in mid-October 1966 in Muscle Shoals (Fame Stud.) by Wilson Pickett, first released on the Atlantic LP # 8138 (The Wicked Pickett), out in December 1966. Sessions musicians involved: Gene Bowlegs Miller (tp), Gilbert Caples, Charlie Chalmers, Eddie Logan (ts), Spooner Oldham (p, org), Chips Moman (lead g), Jimmy Johnson (g), Tommy Cogbill (el-b), Roger Hawkins (d).

      (4) Demo recording by Otis Redding. Conventional wisdom has it that Otis cut that demo for the Pickett session in mid-October 1966. »And then there is the standard which Dan Penn wrote with Rick Hall and that was originally demoed by Otis Redding: "You Left The Water Running"« (Roben Jones: Memphis Boys. The Story of American Studios, Jackson 2010, p. 44). »... just one week after Wilson Pickett had recorded it at Fame for his “The Wicked Pickett” album, Pickett having utilised a 1966 Fame-cut demo of the song by Otis Redding« (quoted from here). Scott Freeman wrote about this demo:
»If taking Arthur Conley [another of Otis's protégés, HMS] to Muscle Shoals sent a not-so-subtle message to Stax, Otis took things a step further when he recorded there himself. Even though his contract with Stax specifically requir- ed him to record exclusively in Memphis, he cut a rough demo of an original called "You Left The Water Running" at Muscle Shoals. It was a spartan pro- duction, with Muscle Shoals owner Rick Hall drumming on a box, Phil keeping the beat with a tambourine, and Otis playing acoustic guitar. Still, Otis didn't take the song to Stax; he offered it to Atlantic's Wilson Pickett, who recorded it in Muscle Shoals for his Wicked Pickett album« (Freeman, Otis!, p. 190).
The demo was never issued during Otis's lifetime but appeared as a bootleg on Stone # 209 in 1976; it was first released legally in 1987. Reportedly, in Rick Hall's office there was a guitar hanging on the wall which was said to be the one used on Otis Redding's demo recording of »You Left the Water Running« (read more here).

     (5) Recorded by James & Bobby Purify in Muscle Shoals and released on the self-titled Bell LP # 6003, out in February 1967. Recording dates are unknown to me, but winter 1966 (Nov.-Dec.) is a fair guess, thus not long after Pickett's version. Personnel at Fame Studios included most musicians who also played at the Pickett session: L. Oldham (p), Jimmy Johnson (g), Roger Hawkins (d), Ed Logan, Charlie Chalmers (ts), and two staff musicians not present at the Pickett session: David Hood (bass) and Albert Lowe Jr. (g). You can hear this version below.

James & Bobby Purify as pictured on the cover of their first Bell LP (1967)

     (6) Recorded, at some time in 1967, by Don Varner (read more here), but never issued at the time and only released in 2005.

     (7) Recorded in 1967 by Ken Booth (with Tommy McCook and the Supersonics) and released on Caltone # 107B in the same year ... on the label (see also here), Ken Booth is given the songwriter's credits! You can listen to that version here.

     (8) Recorded in late 1967 or early 1968 in Muscle Shoals by Maurice & Mac (Maurice McAlister and McLauren Green) and released in March 1968 on Checker # 1197 (read more here); listen to their great version (maybe the best ever waxed) here.

     (9) Recorded by Sam & Dave on 8 or 11 July 1969, again at Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals. The recording was not issued at the time.

So this makes nine versions recorded during 1966-1969, six of which (at least) were recorded in Muscle Shoals and three of which were not issued until much later. Not related, as far as I know at the moment, to Penn-Hall's famous song is Wayne Cochran's B side of his King # 45-5994 single, released in 1965 and also entitled »You Left The Water Running«, but this needs further research. If somebody can help with Cochran's version, please drop me a line.

James & Bobby Purify: »You Left The Water Running« from the Bell LP # 6003 (1967):

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Pittsburgh Gospel: The Anna Murrell Singers

mid-week gospel

At least three »Murrell Singers« are known from the gospel field, and two of them do not concern us here. I just mention them briefly to avoid confusion later on:
     (1) A group, maybe male, attested in the New York area in 1948-49. I found the following news reports about them: New York Age, July 24, 1948, p. 4: »Pastor's Aid Club of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church sponsored a program last Sunday afternoon, with Murrell Gospel Singers as guests [!] artists. Mrs. Clara Ivy was mistress of ceremonies.« - The Afro-American, March 26, 1949, reports from Brooklyn that a group called the »Murrell Singers« was among the groups appearing in a gospel program at Little Zion Baptist Church.
     (2) The Carnell Murrell Singers, who hail from Dallas, Texas, and are contempo- rary; for Carnell Murrell, see more here.

The Anna Murrell Singers
The group I'd like to present tonight are the "Anna Lee Murrell Singers" from Pittsburgh. (The photo to the left is probably taken from their only Gospel LP # 3031, rel. in 1964 or early 1965, but I haven't seen a copy of this LP yet; if anybody does happen to own it please let me know or send me scans of the cover!). During their history, the Anna Lee Murrell Singers were also billed as »Anna Murrell Singers« (e.g. on their Gospel records), »Madame Murrell Gospel Singers« (in a concert ad from 1968) and »Anna Murrell Gospel Singers« (in a news report from 1970).

The personnel of the group, according to the Gospel-Savoy files and Hayes-Laugh- ton's Gospel Discography, were for their mid-1960s recordings: Anna Lee Murrell, lead; Betty Jayne Thomas (also on piano); Geneva Bostic; Doris Beach; Verna Williams; Delores Johnson.
     *Anna Lee Murrell , founder and leader of the Murrell Singers, was born in 1930. In 1983, she was among the first winners of the Pennsylvania-based Gold Penny Award, and in 2011 she was honored as a Pittsburgh Gospel Legend. Here is the respective news report from the New Pittsburgh Courier, January 05, 2011:
(Click for larger version)
Apart from her 60's songs, Mrs. Murrell composed in 1982 a »dramatic gospel musicale« entitled Whatever Happened to the Beautiful Church?, but I do not know anything more about it.
     *Delores Johnson is today probably known as »Dee Johnson«, and you can read more about her life in an article by Sharon S. Blake, »Song Bird: For Dee Johnson, the joy of music is only a heartbeat away«.
     *Betty Jayne Thomas can be presumed to be a parent of Anna Murrell if the information is correct that a certain Tessie L. Thomas was Anna's father. About the further members of the group I do not possess any information. As far as I know, the group had no male members during the 1960s but in 1983 the musical singer Carl Hall was quoted to the effect that he »sang for ... Madame Anna Lee Murrell's Sin- gers« (from The Pittsburgh Press, November 06, 1983). It remains unclear at which period this may have been the case.

(click to enlarge)
The history of the Anna Murrell Singers began probably in or around 1953 since Mrs. Murrell in 1967 claimed that they were in the business for 15 years. The photo to the left, taken by Pittsburgh press photographer Charles »Tee- nie« Harris (more on him in the note at the end of this post), shows the Murrell Singers in August 1962 »in Calvary Baptist Church for All Night Gospel Sing for the Charles "Buggsy" Drafts Fund« (the photo is from the digitalized collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art Collection).

The group seems to have been particularly active from 1967 to 1970. There are several news items covering their appearances:

     (1) Uniontown Morning Herald, July 06, 1967 (p. 14): »Murrell Gospel Singers, under the direction of Anna Lee Murrell, will present a program on Sunday at 7 p.m. in Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Stewart Ave. The singers, one of the most popular groups of its kind in this section of the country, have sung in 25 states in the past 15 years. Ten years ago they were presented in New York City by the famed gospel promoter, Joe Bostic Jr. They are currently under contract to the Savoy Record Co. of Newark, N.J. Their current records are »A Shoulder to Lean On« and »The Lighthouse«.
     (2) Uniontown Morning Herald, September 15, 1967 (p. 20): »Murrell Gospel Singers will present a gospel musical program on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. The singers, under the direction of their founder and leader, Anna Lee Murrell, sing only gospel songs written by Miss Murrell. They have sung in 25 states in the past 15 years. (...)«.
     (3)  News Dispatch (Jeannette, Pa.) March 26, 1970: »BLACK HISTORY PROGRAM PRESENTED AT HEAD START. - The Anna Murrell Singers presented a program of »Black History Through Song« as the second in a series of programs for parents and staff of the Westmoreland County Head Start Program. (...) The Anna Murrell Singers, led by Mrs. Anna Murrell, reside in the Pittsburgh area. They have performed musical programs in 36 states as well as in Mexico and Canada. Mrs. Murrell began the program by giving a brief outline of Black History. She mentioned such outstanding persons as Benjamin Banneker, Crispus Attucks, and Phyllis Wheatley. (...) Mrs. Murrell stated that the purpose of the »Black History Through Song« program was to ease dissension among the people of America through the educational approach. She stated that »we are the ones who must make history for tomorrow.« Mrs. Murrell pointed out the significant role Black men have played in all of our major battles and wars. She also mentioned that many slave revolts took place but that most Americans have not been told of these uprisings. Mrs. Murrell listed »ice cream, golf tees, potato chips, the player piano, gas masks, and the first traffic light« as inventions created by Black people. She went on to state that »the Black cowboy and the Black frontiersman have been almost totally ignored.« Mrs. Murrell cited as a »sign of progress« the fact that »Representative James Shore of New York has introduced a bill to establish a National Commission of Afro-American History and Culture.« She suggested all parents who teach their children »who they are, what they are, where they come from, what they're worth, and to humanity.« (...)
     (4) The Pittsburgh Press, March 28, 1971, 10 f.: Excerpts from the essay GOSPEL MUSIC ... RELIGION OR ENTERTAINMENT ? by Al Donalson:
»On a recent Sunday afternoon, the Anna Murrell Singers made a joyful noise unto the Lord in St. Paul's Cathedral, Oakland. The Gothic splendor of St. Paul's was an unusual setting for a gospel music concert. Most gospel programs are performed in storefront churches, sanctified churches or the so-called »hard-shell« Baptist chur- ches in the ghettos. The program at St. Paul's was performed before a predominantly white congregation. And although there was a heavy snowfall that afternoon - not to speak of the televised Sunday sports - the cathedral was nearly filled to capacity. »We had sung there the year before,« said Mrs. Murrell, the group's leader and soloist. »At first, I had to sort of lead them into the spirit of the music by showing them how to clap their hands and pat their feet. None of them got up and did the 'Holy Dance,' but some of them were crying and really getting involved in what we were doing. They were moving with Murrell and enjoying it,« she said. The Murrell Singers are black, and like most black gospel groups, are identified as »hard-gospel« exponents as opposed to the Nashville gospel sound normally associated with white gospel singers. (...)"

In 1969, the Anna Murrell Singers did appear in a TV special on Channel 4 entitled »This Is Soul« (as announced in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette April 29, 1969, p. 29):

As for their released music, the Anna Murrell Singers recorded for Gospel-Savoy in 1964 a mere twelve songs, two of which remained unissued. The remaining ten songs went on their one and only Gospel LP # 3031 (The Light House) (which I am, by the way, desperately looking for ...), and four songs were released as 45s on Gospel # 1089 and # 1097. According to the Savoy discography as well as Hayes-Laughton's catalogue, the first single was recorded on 28th February 1964, the second several months later on 15th October. However, there is something wrong with these dates, because the labels of my promotional copy of Gospel # 1097 bear a radio station stamp with the date »February 27 1964«. This being hard evidence, so to speak, I am inclined to believe that the recordings were done somewhat earlier than stated in the discographies.

Well, this is about it. If somebody knows more about the Anna Murrell Singers, please contact me. For conclusion, let's hear their two songs released on Gospel # 1097 (I put the B side first on a personal inkling ...):

The Anna Murrell Singers: »Wait On The Lord« / »The Light House« on Gospel # 1097 (1964):

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Additional Note:
Charles »Teenie« Harris (1908-1998) photographed for the Pittsburgh Courier for almost 40 years, documenting life in the African-American community. His appro- ximately 70.000 negatives, recently acquired by the Carnegie Museum of Art, form one of the richest-known archives of Black life in an American city from the 1930s to the 1970s.

On the net, you can see a small but significant selection of Harris's photos in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art. Search the database for his photos here.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Tuesday's Twosome # 19

... tonight with Billy & Betty, from 1968.

I know that the guy is Billy Miller (which is not more than a name to me, however), but I don't know who the gal is. Their single was released, as far as we know, in 1968, on Sag Port # 100/101. That's about all I know; maybe there is somebody out there who can tell us more.

And yes, I did another thing which, I am sure, some of you will find heretical: I produced a stereo edit of the groovy songs (the originals on my copy are mono). I just felt that these tunes gain much by it. I am not a mono aficionado, at least not one of the dogmatic kind, and I basically think that, if done properly, stereo is superior to mono, even if produced artificially from a mono recording. I will not argue on that point! You just like the idea or you don't. Said this ... here are two great dance groovers:

Billy & Betty:  »I Need Some Kind Of Something« / »Talking Bout You Baby« on Sag Port # 100/101 (1968) (STEREO EDIT):

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Dear M., I am glad to oblige! Here are the original mono versions:

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Too Beautiful for Radio

Vee-Jay LP # 5046 (1963)
Today we're in for a treat, courtesy of the Patterson Singers! They featured on this blog repeatedly, albeit so far only in the guise of their third outfit (with Mildred Lane's lead vocals ... I love her voice so much, check it here!). Back in 1960, when Robert Patterson had formed the second outfit, they first appeared again as the »Patterson Singers of Brooklyn, N.Y.« (they had used this billing as early as 1954) and recorded some sides for King/Federal. In the first week of February 1962, they were signed to Vee-Jay Records; their first Vee-Jay session is recorded as of Feb. 5, '62. During the following three years, they recorded five LPs with Vee-Jay, ending in 1965 when Vee-Jay faltered.

The Patterson Singers (feat. Ruth Williams, lead vc?): »Heavenly Father« from the Vee-Jay LP # VJLP 5046 (1963):

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»Heavenly Father« is a most beautiful song and has not escaped the attention of others; it was awarded prominent attention by Bob Marovich on The Black Gospel Blog when he included it in his series »Essential Gospel - Classic Recordings«. It was released on the Patterson Singers's third Vee-Jay LP, Songs of Faith (out in late 1963). I would not stress so much, as Bob does, the indebtedness of the song to the girl group sound of the time (... charming, a cross between the religious gravity of the Caravans and the watery-eyed innocence of the Chantels (“Maybe”) or the Quintones (“Down the Aisle of Love”). The recording is clearly influenced by the girl group sound that by 1963 was emanating from transistor radios ... all across America, he writes). Yet when he goes on to wonder why the song was not chosen for a single release, he brings up various interesting points: Why Vee Jay chose not to release “Heavenly Father” as a single may have had to do with it not sounding like the kind of gospel music then dominating the charts or record sales. Or it may have remained an album selection ... because it wouldn’t have been featured much, if ever, during the ensemble’s programs, not being the type of performance that would wreck a church or auditorium. Then again, perhaps it was, to paraphrase a comment once made by the late, great Alan Freed, simply too beautiful for radio.

(click to enlarge)
And Bob was right in another thing: the song isn't at all typical for what the Patterson Singers were recording at the time. In fact, their third Vee-Jay LP features 12 songs, 10 of which are uptempo. Side 1 has its fair share of tunes which even at the time were direly conventional (»Down By The River Side«, »When The Saints«, »He's Got The Whole World«) but with broad appeal to the mass public; they are arguably the least remarkable tracks on the entire LP. However, these tunes had proven their commercial value by easily crossing over from the church to secular venues, and that Vee-Jay was following this trend eagerly is shown by the fact that they released »Down By The Riverside« and »When The Saints« as the only single from this LP (Vee-Jay # 929). And it paid off, because Billboard reviewed the record ... under the heading POP Spotlight !! (issue of August 3, 1963, p. 18) Still, even the uptempo songs as performed by the Patterson Singers are often unconventionally arranged and thus stand out from many other recordings of their times. Outstanding in this sense are in particular two songs from their third Vee-Jay LP, viz. »I Am So Glad« and »He's Real«. Especially the percussion in »I Am So Glad« is quite amazing ... listen here:

The Patterson Singers: »I Am So Glad« / »He's Real« from the Vee-Jay LP # VJLP 5046 (1963):

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P.S. I just like to add that the Vee-Jay LP Songs of Faith was, as often with Vee-Jay, poorly produced and obviously rushed out in a hurry. Both back cover and labels show a song list for Side 1 which does not correspond to the sequence of songs on the actual disc. In fact, songs nos. 3-6 as indicated on the label are actually nos. 1-4, and the first two songs come last on the disc. So, »Heavenly Father« is no. 5 if you play the record.
Happy Sunday all!